Over at Full Stop, Scott Cheshire mulls the concept of Armageddon, or, as he calls it, ?The Other American Dream.? Meanwhile, a French photography team is traveling the world to take pictures of cities ?without signs of life.? Perhaps the fascination isn?t so American after all. No related posts.No related posts.
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Tonight! Come out and meet The Millions! Listen to readings from Emily St. John Mandel, Sonya Chung, Michael Bourne, and Garth Risk Hallberg. Also, you can meet our editors C. Max Magee and Ujala Sehgal. Or, if you?re feeling testy, you can debate me in person about my recent eReader article! Related posts: Meet the [...]No related posts.
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I had to stock up on cough drops, but Rheingold was appealingly vulgar and very watchable. And as L. said, the machine hardly creaks at all...
Grumpy at lung ailment and not having run for a week, but I am on the mend, I think tomorrow will mark a return to full-on exercise.
Also: mother's ruin! (Via Sarang.)
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Harvard and MIT are partnering for an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) known as edX. Currently, similar offerings are available from Stanford, Princeton, UPenn, and the University of Michigan. Unfortunately edX and others like it will grade student papers by utilizing ?crowd-sourcing? and ?natural-language software.? Oh, geeze. Not that again. No related posts.No related posts.
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In my recent review of Mavis Gallant's Paris Stories, I remarked that though not a general rule, if I'm taking an extremely long time with a book, it probably means that I'm not enjoying it. It was Ken Dryden's The Game that made me throw in the part about not being a general rule. I started this one way back in February I believe and just finished it this week, but I did enjoy it. I had designated The Game as a bathroom book, so you can attribute the length of time it took me to read it to the lack of fiber in my diet, not to a lack of interest.
Enjoyed it, didn't love it. At one point Dryden talks about some games simply feeling slower than others. The Game was one of those games. It was pleasant. I earmarked more passages that I enjoyed than those that I didn't, and I enjoyed Dryden's non-threatening musings and recollections, but it wasn't exactly an exposé of hockey's seedier side and there wasn't a lot of dirt dishing, nor did I want there to be. Still, I expect older hockey fans would have enjoyed it more...
Which I was lead to believe wouldn't be the case. As someone who's hardly ever followed the sport, yet appreciated it nonetheless, I've read a surprisingly large number of hockey books that I've quite enjoyed; Night Work, King Leary, especially. The Game, according to some, is "still widely regarded as the best book about hockey ever written, and one of the best sports books of all time." And during this year's Canada Reads debates, Dryden and his book's defender, Alan Thicke, suggested that the book had universal themes, it was about growing up, and the Canadian spirit. I expected the book to be about hockey, of course, but I was sort of hoping and expecting that it would be more than that. In Night Work: The Terry Sawchuk Poems, Randall Maggs managed to simultaneously tell a hockey story and a story of humanity, I'm not sure Dryden consistently achieved that. Sure there were a few times when a reader of The Game could take hockey and turn it into a metaphor for some aspect of life, sure the back story of Dryden's looming retirement could tug some heartstrings, and sure Dryden managed to show that team hockey players still manage to hold on to their individual personalities-- none of which could be considered small achievements-- but 90% of the time, the book is hockey, hockey, hockey and if you're not into it, it's going to be a dull game.
I think where Dryden's book doesn't hold up as well, and where Thicke's reasoning is dated, is that hockey possibly doesn't have the same resonance to the Canadian psyche as it used to. Sure we say it does, but now it's akin to waving the Canadian flag, with it's giant red leaf, in Nunavut, where maple trees--any trees for that matter-- can't even grow. We enjoy the patriotism more than the sport itself.
When my father was a child he lived and breathed hockey. He couldn't afford skates so he sometimes wore his brother's hand-me-downs and sometimes played in his boots, he played on a pond, no one wore equipment, and he gathered with his friends at a neighbour's house to listen to games on the radio. It was about fun. When I was a boy it became somewhat of a sore spot between us that I didn't share his enthusiasm for the game. The more he pushed, the more I resisted, until I eventually won. But as there's a certain sick sense of cosmic humour, my son came along, and lo and behold, he's a jock. Vowing not to get into the same rut as my father and I, I made a promise to support my son's interests, even if I didn't understand them. Hockey, it was. I can't say I enjoyed it. He was four years old and had practice 3 times a week with ridiculous ice times, the fees and gear were outrageously overpriced, and I was surrounded by parents who weren't going to be satisfied until his/her kid was drafted into the NHL. I found myself wondering again why people enjoyed this. Then my dad visited and I took the opportunity to find out; I'd take him to see one of my son's practices. Surprisingly he didn't enjoy it either. In fact, it made him angry. "When will they get to play?" he demanded. Not today, I had to tell him, today they were doing skating drills. "Tomorrow then?" No, tomorrow was stick handling and passing. But they usually spend the third day playing. Or at least half of it. And they get three minute shifts. My dad quickly realized that there stood a chance he'd get to see my son play hockey for a mere 15 minutes. "What kid's going to enjoy this?" he asked. And looking out at the ice, there were a few. Some kids love drills. Some kids draw the connection that they are learning skills to make them better for actual games. Some kids just love following orders. Most, including my son, actually didn't seem overly thrilled. Sure, my son got up, put on his gear and went, but my dad had a point. My son's initial enthusiasm to join hockey had waned. And mostly because this wasn't what he had in mind. As parents, my wife and I were interested in him getting exercise and having fun; to be the next Gretzky or Crosby wasn't in our plans. Sadly we were outnumbered. My dad's disgust was all we needed. The next year we joined him up to soccer. It's cheaper; at just one practice per week, less pressure; he's getting exercise; and while he's still doing lots of drills, he's playing actual games-- at EVERY practice! Most importantly, he's having fun.
I know hockey hasn't died, I really do. Nor do I wish it to be. I went to a staff function recently where a large number of the men and a few of the women had discovered a TV in a backroom on which they could watch a playoff game. They were missing for most of the night. I get it. The small part of me that used to envy such passion for a game and the comradeship that interest seemed to bring, is gone. I've given up trying to force an interest that I just never had.
My point with all this is that the Canadian hockey that Thicke and Dryden are describing, that's supposed to be part of the Canadian psyche, is dying. It's being replaced by something different, a business hockey, something that parents pay for and consider an investment. With that in mind, the hockey, hockey, hockey in Dryden's book might strike a chord with those who come from an older generation and remember it the way it used to be, but to pretend that it captures the modern day Canadian spirit is, sadly, a myth.
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The good souls at Longform.org have organized all of this year?s National Magazine Award winners. Related posts: Whiting Winners Lots of excellence on the list of 2011 Whiting Award... The Best of the Best of the Best Lots and lots of great stories populate Longform‘s “Best of... Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award Winners Announced For [...]Related posts:
I?ve decided to take E.M. for my experimental subject. She?s here and she?s a pest; she might as well serve some useful purpose. And she has an inner forum, and recalls an infancy, an infans before speaking.
As for me, I am better off without either.
Montreal poet and translator Erín Moure?s new poetry collection, The Unmemntioable (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2012) continues a number of threads in her work over the past few years, from translation, border-crossings and her increasingly-constant companion, collaborator, foil and hetronym (in the Pessoasense) Elisa Sampedrín. In The Unmemntioable, Moure includes a study of Sampedrín alongside her own grief, taking her mother?s ashes to (as the back cover writes) ?the village where her maternal family was erased by war and time. There, watching E.M. through the trees in a downpour, an idea came to her: she would use E.M. to research the nature of Experience.? The nature of experience, as the book explores it, is multi-faceted, and somehow complex enough that it actually becomes more readable. How does that happen?
My intention was just to write at the desk in Bucure?ti, but this notebook paper turns into a plant again damp with sap and fibre and breaks the nib. Perfumes anarchic tendency and a way with words, fallen down on crested birds.
?The smell of hay at the look of god?the pen writes.
?We wept our gifts for you, dear mother, our treasures. Waking up in the night and wringing out the shirt. Even then, the tumor was growing in the blood.?
(Tomasz?s shadow bent long from the doorway to the forest, but it?s just the noise of darkness and the gate banging shut in wind)
This notebook is arresting sleep (lying face-down in a pool of snow). When I look up, a siren, and the light of the ambulance flashes off the walls at it streaks down Matei Voievod in the dark?. but who does it carry? And repeatedly? E.M.? Has she eaten a peanut again?
Over the course of Moure?s trilogy of poetry books O Cidadán(Anansi, 2002), O Cadoiro, poems(Anansi, 2007) and O Resplendor (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2010), as well as her Little Theatres (Anansi, 2005), where we first met the writer and translator Sampedrín, Moure has worked increasingly complex book-length collages of essay-poems, lyrics, arguments, questions and prose-lines, all while adding layers and nuance to Elisa Sampedrín. It is as though Moure works hard to diminish or even erase the narrator/author, even while building up the hetronym of Sampedrín. And why is Sampedrín so argumentative in this collection? We?ve seen Sampedrín be argumentative before, certainly, challenging the narrator in all sorts of ways, but this collection almost sees Moure?s hetronym downright hostile in places. Exactly what is happening between the narrator and hetronym, two elements of the author herself? It would seem that, although the questioning is sometimes harsh, the collaborations remain.
Where Moure?s previous trilogy focused on ?the citizen,? her new collection, The Unmemntioable, turns the same gaze sideways, writing out her mother?s Ukrainian background quite specifically, and exploring how the experience of this particular citizen and her forebears produced the woman that Moure knew as her own mother.
If anything, it?s the fault of reading. When Chus Pato?s poetry appeared on my desk, I decided to give up writing poems. I moved to Bucure?ti to see if I could free myself from this crisis of experience, this excision of language. Then I saw Erín Moure in the park at a café table, looking at me. Why did she come here?
What does she know about experience? Her mother tongues resist all attempts at a technical language.
Is it that she has no mother tongue?
Today, I refuse to be pinned down to an identity. Right away, I want to betray it.
Through her mother?s death and the exploration of her and her family?s history, the blend of narrative, fragment, language and translation weave throughout in a remarkably natural and fluid way, all of which could be boiled down to Moure?s interior monologue. Scribbled down in moleskins while travelling, the book concludes with what, on the surface, reads like a prose memoir of travel. These are sketches possibly even composed in that café in Bucure?ti, perhaps, writing out and through the geography of her mother?s family that read as deep, meditative and as personal as, say, Brian Fawcett?s Human happiness (2012) or Susan Howe?s That this (2011):
Dear Chus: everything I had dreamed turned out to be made of paper. The skin was an organ that suffered in silence the rays, the scourges, the cuts of trees and medicine. In Hlibovychi in 1922, the war was over but the repressions escalated. Predeceased by her father Oleks, now with more children, my grandmother Anastasia emigrated with Tomasz in 1929, to NW14.72.9.W6. Riding down the south side of the mountain, the side with a road, the smallest daughter, my mother, went to school.
Forderung. ?We must press forward to the schools.?
In the innermost core of blinded love, with is and must never be realized, a woman is trying to open her eyes to see.
* * *
Though my mother is gone, her face still claims me. In the morning I write wearing her cancer hat. I wear her Western belt to Whitehorse. In my pocket, she stands at the summit cairn in Wonder Pass with her friends the nurses. They wear anoraks and sunhats. Maybe one day, as she did, I will wear her blue ribbed hat, the knitted one, as hair.
Moure has composed a book that furthers her ongoing explorations in language, translation and identity as well as writing out a tribute to her mother and her mother?s history. ?A mother is the unmemntioable boundary / that can never come fully clear.?
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It’s a truly esoteric week on Vulpes Libris; so much so that I can’t even come up with a nicely glib paragraph. Instead, enjoy this picture of two finches on a dinner date. On Monday, Nikki reviews Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I. On Tuesday, a classic from the archives: our 2011 Q&A with Professor Mary Beard. [...]
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New month, new competition. During May (closes 31st) you can enter a competition to win a copy of Tessa Harris's The Anatomist's Apprentice. The competition is open to UK residents. Answer the question and fill in the form here.
Here are this week's reviews of which there are 9 again. There are also more updates to the new releases pages (see below):
Michelle Peckham reviews the delightfully named Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill, the second in the Jimm Juree series set in present-day Thailand;Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.
Susan White reviews last month's competition prize, Every Vow You Break by Julia Crouch set in New York state;
Lizzie Hayes reviews the paperback release of Elly Griffith's A Room Full of Bones the fourth in this North-Norfolk set series;
Amanda Gillies may have found her top read of 2012 in Doug Johnstone's Hit & Run, set in Edinburgh;
Staying in Scotland, Lynn Harvey reviews Stuart MacBride's standalone, Birthdays for the Dead;
Down in Devon, Terry Halligan reviews Edward Marston's The Stationmaster's Farewell where railway detective Robert Colbeck is sent to Exeter;
Moving to Finland, Maxine Clarke reviews Harri Nykanen's Nights of Awe, tr. Kristian London the first in the Ariel Kafka series, set in Helsinki;
Terry also reviews Martin O'Brien's The Dying Minutes the seventh in the Jacquot series set in the South of France
and Maxine also reviews Cath Staincliffe's Split Second.
By the time this post is published I will be in Canada on a short jaunt to Toronto. Because I didn't have time to write a bunch of long overdue reviews before I left, I thought I'd dig a few bits and pieces out of my archives and repost them for your amusement. This one was first published on August 17, 2005. .................................................................................................................................................. When I was a student working part-time for Libro Books in central Melbourne in the late 1980s/early 1990s we had problems with an arsonist. This gave new meaning to the term "hot off the shelves". Basically, some idiot with a penchant for matches used to sneak into the store and hide in the children's book section, the only part of the shop that was hidden from view if you were working on the sales desk. The next thing you know you'd smell smoke and by the time...
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